My Top 2012 Cubs Prospects, Part 1

Following the Cubs minor leagues in 2012 is probably going to be more fun than following the big league team. Hopefully it will be more rewarding than what we're likely to see from the 2012 Cubs. Each year several sources release their top prospect lists. We talk a lot about them here and I thought I'd take a stab at it. I needed a methodology and came up with something that works for me. Any prospect list is going to be subjective and mine is no different.

We may disagree on some of the prospects that belong in the top 10, but it's most likely anyone in the top 20 will also be in any top 10 list. So what I've done is take John Sickels top Cubs prospects for 2012 as a starting point. This part is about the methodology I'll be using to rank the prospects.

  • ETA: The closer a player is to the big league the less uncertainty in our expectations. If a player has an ETA of 2012 he's already played ball in the upper minors and probably even in AAA. The player has not been weeded out along the way like so many other prospects are. This is important and I feel that too many ranking systems ignore this. We know a hell of a lot more about Brett Jackson and his chances of success at the MLB level than we do Javier Baez. Just think about it. We know more about Javier Baez's future in baseball than we do the top Little League player in the world. This is just common sense. I see no reason this information should not be included.
  • Position: It's quite important when determining the future value of a prospect to know what position he currently plays. A starting pitcher has more value than a reliever even though relievers have more impressive numbers. A left fielder has less value than a catcher. This information is taken into consideration with pitchers, but far too often it's ignored or not properly weighted when ranking position players.
  • Potential: You can call this the ceiling of the player if you want. The potential and ceiling are really the same thing. This is about how good the player could be based on scouting reports available. This already weights heavily in others rankings and it should here too.
  • Performance: How well the player has done is the single best indication of how well he'll do in the future. Other take this into consideration when raking players. How could you not? You don't find too many 23 year old shortstops among the top 100 who are average defensively and have a .650 OPS. Performance matters, but it's another thing I believe is not given enough attention.

While the scoring is subjective, I tried to be as unbiased as possible. If the player's ETA was 2012 (or he'd already reached the big leagues like Anthony Rizzo has), he receives 10 points. If the ETA is 2013 he gets 9. I then decreased by 2 for each additional year. So a player whose ETA is 2014 would get 7 points. A player whose ETA is 2016 would get 3. The further the ETA is, the less we know about the player. I dropped the point by only one for an ETA of 2013 because that player has likely already played in at least High A.

The scoring for position is below:

  • Catcher: 10
  • SS: 9
  • Starting Pitcher: 8
  • 2B/3B/CF: 7
  • LF/RF: 6
  • 1B: 5
  • Relief pitcher: 4

Arguments can easily be made that a SP prospect is worth more than double a relief prospect, but considering the rate of injuries for pitchers I'm sticking with what's above.

For potential I'm using various scouting reports and keeping things relatively simple regarding points. You get 10 for star player, 8 for above average, 6 for average, 4 for OK and 2 for worse than that. Since we're dealing with top prospects let's hope the Cubs don't have any that are a 2.

To assign points for performance, it's going to hurt most the recent draft picks. I can't assign 10 points for someone who hit well in 17 rookie league at-bats. Those guys are almost entirey potential at this point. The only information we have on these players are their scouting reports. I've long felt that top 10 lists are too populated with last year's draft picks. Many of whom didn't play, or if they did only played for a couple weeks. We've already established that all prospect rankers are including performance, but for recent draft picks they don't. I'm going to evaluate them on the same criteria.

You may be wondering where age factors into this. it's more impressive if a 21 year old is even league average in AA than it is a 24 year old being slightly above average. The fact the 21 year old is already at AA tells us that among his minor league peers he is damn good. You see where age becomes a factor though. It's the performance of the player and his age at the level he's playing in. I haven't explained the points for peformance yet, but they are explained below.

  • 8 points for well above average performance
  • 7 points for above average
  • 5 points for average
  • 4 points for below average

A player who has been well above average, say Anthony Rizzo, and is also quite young, earns an additional 2 points. Rizzo's performance would qualify as 10 points. You get 2 points or 0 points for age. I'm using 25 for AAA and a year younger for each level lower. If a prospect is 2 years younger than that, he gets 2 points. Brett Jackson was 23 last year in AAA so he earns 2 points. But that's not enough. That would make Rizzo and Jackson worth 10 points based on performance and that's not fair. Rizzo was younger and better. So in this category there's an additional 2 points available. One of those points will be given out for MVP caliber performance and the other for reaching the big leagues at 22 or younger. Rizzo deserves more points for performance than Jackson. This would give him 12 and Jackson would get 10.

The maximum points would be 42. That would be a catcher, 22 or younger, who has already reached the big leagues, performed at an MVP caliber season in AAA the year before, and have the potential to be a star. Buster Posey probably would have been 41 points on this scale. He was 23 in AAA in 2010.

Here's the list I'll be using with one exception: Gerardo Concepcion will be included. Jorge Soler will be too if the Cubs sign him quickly enough.

If there's something here I shouldn't consider or something I should, make your case in the comments.